We are fully engaged in the Christmas season now. Stores feature big sales. Evergreen trees have popped up everywhere -- loaded down with subtle to lovely to garrulous ornaments. Some of us are even reflecting on the original Christmas Story. Each year movies tell it anew in cinematic form but mostly about Santa Claus, however.
The season is best described as the season of controversy. So it makes good press and good pulpit to decry the "secularization of Christmas." Nativity scenes are banned from public property in some places and featured in others. Some stores are having "holiday" sales and playing "winter" music, while others are having "Christmas" sales and playing "religious" music.
One religious group is urging a boycott of a store for using a song in an ad that talks about other holidays as well as Christmas. Some schools are displaying traditional "Christmas" symbols with trees and gifts, others have banned any symbol that represents the old Christmas beliefs and no trees are in sight. Christmas parties are now winter parties, Christmas break is now winter break and Christmas cards are now holiday cards if any at all. Christmas concerts both instrumental and vocal are different.
Carols are out and "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" and "Grampa got run over by a John Deere coming home from the Moose Lodge Christmas Eve" are in. "All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth" is an annual hit. Passions erupt. Left versus right. Sacred versus secular. Another chapter in the so-called culture wars is written.
For others, 'tis the season of spending. Some companies do the majority of their annual business during this one season, hence Black Friday. Some families ruin their annual budgets during the same period.
For still others, 'tis the season of religion. Many devout believers will spend much time in worship services, meditating on the reason for the season. They will provide food, clothing and shelter for those in need. Gifts will be provided for the needy. And then people who otherwise never darken the door of a church building will attend a Christmas service. Great. Most will prefer that it be decidedly musical over speaking, entertaining over instructive, inspiring over reflective. They will take videos of the skits and performers and applaud as if it were a concert or play in September. And they will have paid their dues for the season. Perhaps for the year.
I am bemused at Soap Opera denizens and the casts of regular television shows who live in debauchery, dishonesty, lust, adultery, revenge-filled lives and then piously attend a Christmas service one program a year in all of their hypocritical finery.
Music, film, reading, sermons and the like can be part of the ongoing rhythm of life. It doesn't have to be seasonal. Don't shut it down on Dec. 26. Let it be natural and easy. It will both connect you with those who share your faith and testify gently to those who don't.
'Tis the season, all right. Let's use it in positive, appropriate ways. Yoda said, "Either do it or not. There is no try." Let's do it this year.